"I don’t know babe, I’m just worried that I’m gonna feel out of place at university,” the eighteen-going-on-nineteen year old sighed somberly as he laid down on his bed. Ignoring all of the ruckus his boyfriend Joshua was making, he stared at the ceiling fan above him. “What if… I’m just meant to collect dust like this fan?”
Josh, sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by almost two-decades worth of junk and miscellaneous items, audibly chuckled. “Oh Neku, I know it’s human nature to be worried and nervous about starting your own life and enrolling into school, but you do realize it’s not the worst thing you’ve endured, right?” The blond stood up, and in the means of walking to Neku’s bed, he stepped on a cup and fell onto him. He giggled, though the redhead remained straight-faced.
The two gazed at each other: Neku’s ocean eyes dripping with sadness, whereas Josh’s space eyes were black holes of hope and love. “Come on,” Josh crooned, grabbing Neku’s thin wrist and tugging him off of the mattress. “Let’s finish packing.”
The redhead rolled his eyes and begrudgingly stood, walking past the graveyard of items to the opposite side of the room that Josh moved to. They spent quite a bit of time in silence, with the occasional glance and smile as they turned and put Neku’s things in boxes at the same coincidental time. It was clear as day that dread and fear were brooding off of Neku, but Josh tried to goof at him and try to keep his mind off of the future. “Hey Neku,” the angel started, turning to tease him, holding a small pile of manga, “Did these serve as the inspiration for your little haircut?”
“What?! No! ” Neku yelled and snatched the books from his grasp. “You’re such a dick.”
“Hey-” Josh started, smirking. “It’s not my fault you’ve had the same haircut since you were thirteen.”
Neku rolled his eyes, “Says the guy that’s had his haircut for longer than I’ve known him.”
“Oh this?” The blond flipped his hair: “ This is all natural, baby.”
Neku scoffed, “Whatever.”
Josh handed the rest of Neku’s manga over to him, knowing he would want all of the books to be together. Joshua knew that Neku’s not only scared, but stressed- oddly enough, Neku is a meticulous person, a quality about him that Josh wasn’t aware of until they started spending extended time with each other after they reconciled. The first night Neku and Josh ever drank (and got drunk) together, Neku counted the fish in Joshua’s pad. “Fifty-six,” he said.
Josh laughed, face becoming even more rosy than before, “You’re cute, Neku.”
That was before they started dating, which felt like eternities ago to Josh, but it was only less than two. The first and most notable example of Neku’s obsessiveness, but more accumulated: Neku would count Josh’s curls in their free time (especially drunken free time), Neku would tap his foot to a drumbeat, and Neku particularly enjoyed having a tidy room, the exact opposite of what his room appears at the moment.
“In some ways, I wish we could just finish packing.” Neku sighed.
“Hmm? Why’s that?” Josh asked in a sing-song voice.
Neku shrugged, “Just so you won’t find anything else to embarrass me about.”
“I’ll try not to dear.”
It didn’t take much longer for the blond angel to stumble upon a box full of old records tucked away in the corner of Neku’s closet. He glanced through them: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, Make it Big by Wham!, Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, and Honky Chateau by Elton John. Joshua stared at the Elton record.
Elton John, the man responsible for selling almost the biggest amount of records in the world: The man who sang the beautiful ballads “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer”. Oh, did Joshua love Elton- an LGBT icon who struggled with self-identity and finding hope.
“I love Elton.” the angel whispered.
Neku turned and whimpered, “Josh- you weren’t supposed to find those..” His voice fell off as his facial expression went cold.
“What?” Joshua looked at Neku with a look of confusion. “Are you hiding records from me or something? Can I not find objects of yours?” Though it sounded harsh, Joshua didn’t intend it to be: it’s a genuine question. Why would Neku not want his boyfriend to find his records?
“Josh.” Neku walked over and grabbed the LP out of his boyfriend’s hands forcefully, dropping it off back into the box and stepping in front of it. “They’re not mine. Please don’t touch them.”
The blond stood up and crossed his arms, meeting Neku’s gaze. Anger was seething from the both of them: Joshua’s in the form of jealousy, and Neku’s in the form of protection. A storm was brewing in the room. Josh could sense something peculiar growing in his boyfriend, though- something he wasn’t completely sure he wanted to know about.
“ Whose are they?” Josh looked down at him intimidatingly. Neku pushed Josh out of the way with his shoulder and walked towards his bathroom. Josh breathed out of his nose in an effort to chill out and sat on Neku’s bed waiting for his return.
After a few minutes pass, deciding to check on him, Josh walked to the restroom and heard Neku whimpering and crying. Josh said, “Nekky?” and when he didn’t hear an answer he pounded his fist on the door. “Neku. Open the door. Don’t make me come in there.” (All this entailed was Josh teleporting two feet through the door: Neku admired that he could do such a thing, but he didn’t particularly like it.) Neku opened the door with swoll, flooding eyes. “Go away,” he wept, attempting to shut the door once more. Josh pushed the door open and shut it behind them.
“God, baby,” Josh voiced, pulling his depressed partner into a hug, embracing him. “What’s wrong?”
“Why even ask? You can read my thoughts.” Neku sneered, still in an embrace with his lover. When Joshua responded with a firm no, Neku hugged him tighter and cried harder. Josh stood there holding him until Neku stepped back and started talking.
“They were his.”
Josh covered his mouth with both hands and looked down at the ground and started crying himself. He wiped them away quickly, hugging his boyfriend once again while he continued sniveling. After a few more moments, Josh walked him over to his bed, where they both sat on the edge of and looked at each other. The angel could feel the guilt written on Neku’s face. He knew any moment an “I’m sorry” could escape his mouth: when really, Josh is sorry.
When Neku was twelve he lost his best friend. Neku and Josh didn’t talk about it- Neku knew enough to know that Josh had chosen to put him in the Game. Neku and his best friend were inseparable- from spending their time playing video games, to drawing, to listening to music. They had been besties for years, ripped apart by the incident. On the outskirt streets of Shibuya, an elderly woman was walking across the street when a driver hadn’t seen her. If not for Neku’s friend running and pushing the woman out of the way, she would be dead. His best friend had died in the hospital after hours of fighting for his life. Neku was given permission by his parents to take whatever he wanted, but Neku didn’t become overzealous and take his best friend’s belongings. He only took his records and a few other things. The records have remained in his closet, collecting dust similar to his ceiling fan. Only this closet had skeletons that he didn’t want Josh to find.
On Josh’s end, he couldn’t have felt more sorry for Neku because he had watched him play in the Game. He was a valuable player and finished the Game: but he decided that he wanted to perish and not return to life. He told Joshua that if he were meant to die to make sure someone else could live, that he would “feel satisfied in knowing that.” The blond deity spoke upon him and granted that he was wise beyond his years: his funeral arrived days later. Joshua tries to not blame himself for his boyfriend’s best friend’s death: but how could he not when his best friend chose to leave and he could have forced him to stay? He remained glad the topic hadn’t been mentioned many times, and that Neku wasn’t determined to hold grudges.
“I’m sorry-” Neku started, with Joshua cutting him off.
“No, I am, Neku. I am so sorry.”
Neku sighed and looked away, weeping once more. Joshua wiped the tears dripping down his face away, silently acknowledging his pain once more.
“Did he win?” The redhead asked, turning to his boyfriend and grabbing his hand, interlocking their fingers. In times like these Neku had trouble seeing his lover as a divine being and not like a horrible monster, ripping people from life.
Josh had ripped so many lives from Neku: Shiki’s, his best friend’s, Beat and Rhyme’s, hell, even his own. And Joshua lied to his face about taking his life, and shot him again. Neku wasn’t quite sure what he wanted as a result of his question, but it was already up in the air so it was too late to take it back.
The Composer sighed, tightening his grip with Neku’s. “He did… but, he wanted to go.”
“But why?” Neku teared, wiping his wet eyes with his spare hand.
“I wish I knew.” Joshua looked up at his lover, who looks as melancholic, if not more, than he did when they started packing. It’s almost as if when people pack up their belongings to go somewhere else, that there’s always baggage that you have to carry with you. “I wish it could have been different.”
Neku let go of his hand and stood up, yelling at him: “But it could have been, you ass!”
Josh shook his head austerely, remaining sitting how he had been before, but not making eye contact. “No, Neku. There isn’t any way the scenario would have played differently. I already change the balance of the world enough with the Reaper’s Game. Things have changed, but nothing can be done to escape the past. I just do my job.”
Neku stood for a moment in silence then sat back down next to his boyfriend.
“If it wasn’t him, it would have been her, Neku. I can’t restitch or escape death.”
Neku remained silent and laid down on the bed, covering up as if he were going to sleep, though it was relatively early to be doing so. Joshua remained still and asked if Neku was done packing for the night, with no response.
“Do you mind?” Josh looked at him after a long time in dreary silence.
“Mind what, Josh?” Neku sneered once more, turning to the other side of his body so he didn’t have to make eye contact with Josh. The angel Joshua. Neku hated that his boyfriend was an angel most of anything about him: an angelic title implies that they aren’t capable of hurting anyone. If only everyone in the world knew the truth and knew that an angel’s destiny meant hurting more people than the average human’s destiny. Humans are doomed to fail each other- yet, to Neku, Shiki, Eri, Beat, and Rhyme have only failed him a few times. Josh was a daily hassle.
Joshua picked up the box of vinyls, trying to smile as best as he could in such a morbid conversation. “I mean… have you ever listened to them?” Neku shrugged, not unlike his usual demeanor. Neku turned to look at him as Josh put the record in the player and moved the needle. Before he dropped it, he winked at his redhead boyfriend. “No offense, Neku… but uh, you completely missed out by never listening to Elton.”
And cue Josh getting his gay on: He started dancing around Neku’s bed and closet, grabbing random attire and putting it on. Neku, sadly, didn’t have any fur scarves or anything as fabulous as the angel was wanting: Mus Rattus, Jupiter of the Monkey.. Such a lack of Lapin Angelique and anything high-class and flashy that Shibuya has to offer. “Honky Cat” is a notable favorite of Joshua’s- clear in the way that he was dancing and singing. Neku seemed almost starstruck. Joshua only acts this flamboyant when he’s drunk or high- and this secret love of Elton John? Neku was trying to make sense of it, but he barely knew who Elton John even is. He sang that “Tiny Dancer” song and “Rocket Man” but this..? This song is not what phones was expecting.
“Ohhhhhh, change is gonna do me good!” Joshua belted, glancing at his boyfriend but still somehow lost in his own world. “It’s like trying to drink whiskey, ohhhhhh through a bottle of wine!”
Something that always caught Neku in shock was the perfection that his lover sang. Josh explained to him once that his voice wasn’t decent until he won his Reaper’s Game. Not that him winning is a good memory- it wasn’t, at all- but the angel adored to sing when he could. There was nothing better than singing and being on pitch with no effort involved. Neku is nowhere near even a decent singer, so he didn’t try often, but he liked to hum and tap his feet to the beats.
“ The way you curl your toes baby,” the angel hummed to the next song- “Mellow”- sitting on the bed and rocking next to Neku, who was now sitting up on the edge of his bed. He moved with him, still visibly upset about the situation earlier but trying to throw it past him. The teen looked over and smiled at his boyfriend, who looked more angelic than ever.
“So.. this is Elton John?” Neku chuckled at the same time Joshua did in response.
“You don’t even know! My gay inspiration. Not even my gay inspiration dear, just my inspiration. God, Elton is so unique.” Josh said adoringly, flipping his curls behind his head along with a giggle. “Elton John was one of the world’s most famous pianists during my younger days. My parents would, um…” he started stammering, looking at Neku and smiling through a tinge of pain. He continued, trying his best to brush it off: “We would all listen to him all of the time. I swear, I know every Elton song. He’s one of my favorite memories from being younger.”
His ginger boyfriend grabbed his hand and squeezed it lightly. “That sounds so sweet, babe. I’m glad. You know I love hearing about when you’re happy.”
A small salty tear fell from the blond’s eye as the song ended. During the next two songs, the two boys went back to cleaning, solemnly. Josh hummed some lyrics whilst folding the clothes that were hanging in his boyfriend’s closet. At one point, about when Josh looked halfway through, he suggested that Neku get some new clothes. Neku brushed him off, but he realized it might not have been a bad idea.
“Okay, Josh...” Neku shrugged, knowing that agreeing to a shopping trip is not only in a way suicide, because Josh gets way too involved with attire and fashion, and because he hated trying on clothes over and over. And, not only that: Josh and Neku tried to “play it cool” in public and not announce their romantic connection. Not a lot of hand-holding in public, never kissing, just flirty glances between the aisles. And the occasional makeout session in the fitting rooms. (Those are always what Neku looks forward to- Joshua, however, still in it for the clothing.) “Next Saturday.”
“This song always makes me sad.” Joshua stated bluntly, catching Neku off-guard. Neku recognized the song: Rocket Man. Not that he ever paid much attention to the lyrics. The music aficionado just avoided Elton John purely because his best friend liked him. He always considered a listen… but the idea made Neku too morose.
“I’m not the man they think I am at home,” the angel hummed, singing with the tune.
“I just… this song makes me sad because sometimes I don’t want to be the Composer anymore. But it’s not like anyone else is going to do it.” He sat there with his boyfriend’s shirts, some of which he had never seen before. (And for good reason- god, Neku.) “And I hate that for so long the only person I was able to talk to was Senae.”
“But you have me and the gang now,” Neku offered, moving next to him and putting his arm on his lover’s shoulders.
“They don’t like me.” Josh shrugged sadly.
“What? Yes they do.” Neku looked at Josh in a light shock, and Josh shook his head.
“They don’t. Their wavelengths change when I’m around. And honestly…” he paused as Elton continued in the background, “and all the science, I don’t understand. It’s just my job, five-days a week. Rocket maaaaannnn.” “I can’t say I blame them. I don’t like my job or who I am.”
Neku pushed some of Josh’s hair back behind his ear, kissing his head softly in the process. “I like who you are.”
Joshua smiled at him, beautiful purple eyes tearing up in the process. “I love you, cherry.”
“I love you too angel.” The ginger set his head on Joshua’s shoulder, gently caressing his hand.
“And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…” the angel sang, repeatedly until the song ended.
They spent the rest of the night listening to the album and giggling at each other. Nights that end up like those were perfect nights for Joshua- dancing, productivity, Elton John, Neku Sakuraba, and kisses. Yet at the end of the night Neku laid in bed staring at the ceiling fan. Nothing could get his mind off of university, and to make his anxiety worse, Josh made him ache in sadness. Joshua has a way of turning conversations serious and then laughing them away once he’s blown off steam. Neku couldn’t help but repeat in his head how unhappy Josh was with himself and his job. Not that he has squishy feelings over Josh’s occupation- especially not after tonight, knowing that his best friend had a second chance at life..
He eventually fell into the night and slept without qualms. However, he had decided that he was going to keep a journal to track his dreams and feelings. He still felt strange- but who could he converse with? Shiki would just tell Eri and Rhyme or vice-versa. Beat would care, yet would lack advice and say that Neku would have less problems in his relationship if he tried to date more masculine men. Most of the time this served as the blunt of the joke, but the ginger still felt a tinge of hurt whenever the joke was made. Beat still reiterated to him that he didn't understand that Neku "liked both" men and women, but it's fine because Josh is "cool" and "a little girly." Past that, Beat always talked about how he admired their relationship whenever him and Neku were smoking weed alone. Beat told Neku once that he liked how Joshua’s territorial of him, yet still flirted with him in front of his friends. It was appreciated, even with a few backhanded compliments. Senae always had his coffee shop open, but phones didn’t like to discuss Joshua when the topic revolved around something intimate. And, considering Senae might have had involvement with him losing his best friend, it might be better to not speak with him about it.
Neku was just reminded tonight of the hole in his heart when his friend left. It was almost like losing Shiki, and Josh even played with that too. Direct involvement. All of this made Neku's head spin- the pain he went through over and over for what seemed, at times, for Josh's enjoyment is morose and soul-crushing. Yet, Joshua promised that none of these things made him happy. But how can Josh be so perfect and make Neku whole, while his presence has already wrecked his life multiple times?
Josh just looks so perfect when he glances over. He looked delightful dancing to Elton John tonight. His beautiful purple eyes comforting him earlier. His blond curls bouncing in the air every time he moved. The way his arms wrapped around his waist when they held each other close. Angel beams healing Neku’s open wounds. Lipstick kisses leaving marks on his skin that don’t wash off. All from Joshua.. There’s no way he ever meant to harm Neku.. right?
Halfway into Neku’s first semester of college, he was going strong with an almost all A’s. Joshua didn’t visit him much at his dorm because they agreed that the time still wasn’t right to come out to the public. Plus, Neku hadn’t made many friends quite yet, so seeing him with another dude all the time might hurt his reputation, and Josh respected that. This meant Neku had to visit Josh in the pad- which was relieving, because he wasn’t a fan of being around people every minute of the day.
When Neku knocked on the door it fell open, revealing Josh sitting at his work desk with a smile on his face. It took Neku a short amount of time to see empty wine glasses for the two of them. “Hey dear,” Josh hummed, smirking. “Long time no see.”
“Yeah,” the ginger rolled his eyes, sitting across from him. “If you live in dog years.”
Their drunken night went on with Josh bragging about how smart his boyfriend is, giggling, and watching television cuddled up next to each other. After watching a few episodes of the ginger’s favorite show, Neku turned to Josh and asked him why he hated his job so much.
“What?” Josh’s brows furrowed, looking to his boyfriend. “Why is that on your mind dear?”
Neku didn’t turn to look at his angel boyfriend, continuing to glance at the TV. “I don’t know. It just makes me wonder things about you.” A pause lingered in the air before the ginger continued. “You know. What you’ve done. Who you know. Who’s lost the Game.”
Josh stared at the television, silent. Dread and grief started to fog the air around them. When Neku realized Joshua wasn’t going to answer, he went back to the desk to grab the bottle of wine. He poured himself a glass, downed it, and poured another one to take back with him to the couch.
“Just bring the bottle,” the blond sighed, kicking his legs on the espresso end table in front of him. Neku plopped next to him, but not close enough to touch his lover. Josh knew exactly what Neku’s emotional actions were about, and he didn’t know how to go about expressing relief to them. How much guilt did he have to feel for ending his boyfriend’s best friend’s life?
Yet, at the same time, how much guilt did Neku have to feel losing his best friend?
“I’m sorry.” Josh said, offering his hand to his boyfriend’s. Neku didn’t grab it. Instead, the nineteen-year-old grabbed the bottle and drank from it. “Look-” the angel started, trying to move closer to Neku. “I don’t know how to explain it in any way that it makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t. But I didn’t kill him, Neku..”
“You killed me. And then took Shiki.. You kill a lot of damn people, fuck.” Neku stopped as tears rolled down his face. Mid-wiping them away, Neku whimpered, “I’m sorry babe. God, I’m sorry. Its just ever since that night I haven’t stopped thinking about how things could have been different.” Josh stood up and walked away, coming back in a short amount of time with tissues. He handed Neku one, sitting next to him and rubbing his back.
“The only way I get out of this job is if someone kills me.”
Neku looked up at Josh as if he dropped a bomb. Even though Neku likely could have put this together by now, actually hearing Josh say that felt like a stab to his heart.
“And I can’t even kill myself. I get thrown into the Game if I kill myself, but it plays with no partners as technical punishment. I’ve tried. The first week was easier than the following time I attempted, it sucked. I’m sorry. I don’t want to complain, but I can’t leave it behind Neku, even though I want to, so bad. And it’s going to be a long, long, long time until someone is able to kill me to get me out.. You almost did it. But I also would die. It’s a rat race that I can’t allow myself to get out of. I’m so sorry.”
The ginger stopped crying and hugged his boyfriend as hard as he could. It was like holding on for dear life. They were quiet for the longest, until they both decided they wanted to go to bed. Josh and Neku laid there looking up at the ceiling.
“I think I get it now.”
Josh turned to look at his ocean-eyed boyfriend. Neku smiled at his boyfriend, who had a blackhead pore strip drying on his nose. “Get what dear?”
“Why you like that song. I’m a rocket man. Rocket maaaaaaannnn.”
The purple-eyed angel smiled. “Yeah.”
Neku fell asleep soundly to his angel boyfriend harmonizing to the song.
“And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time, ‘till touchdown brings me ‘round again to find, I’m not the man they think I am at home, oh no no no, I’m a rocket man. Rocket mannnn, burning out his fuse up here alone.. And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time. And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time. And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…”